We here at Greenlining need to speak out against the ongoing violent law enforcement and over-policing of black people. We know that COVID-19 actively has a disproportionate impact on communities of color and we are living through a pandemic of devastating speed, scale, and severity. But we must now deal with the virus’s destruction compounding the ongoing, devastating deadly violence by law enforcement and fearful white people.
Communities of color were already experiencing higher rates of job loss, lack of access to health care, housing insecurity, food uncertainty, loss of childcare, increased domestic violence and much more. COVID-19 continues to expose the racialized structures of deep societal inequalities that result in significant trauma for our communities. Even during this unusual time of sheltering-in-place and physical distancing, while crimes are down, the police and racist community members are still killing black men in the street in broad daylight. These compounded devastating life experiences are resulting in too much pain, too much suffering and too much loss.
We are all weaker, poorer and sicker.
We were already mourning for our loved ones lost to the coronavirus and we must also mourn and pay tribute to those (too many) killed by law enforcement and White supremacist neighbors who believe they can take law and order into their own hands. This multiplier of trauma weighs on each of us in different ways, and we must create the change we seek via multiple tactics that are grounded in racial equity, diving into power and dismantling oppression.
Ever since COVID-19 forced the California economy into virtual lockdown, Greenlining has been pointing out that we really face two pandemics -- a longstanding pandemic of inequality that has been magnified by this new viral pandemic. As our elected officials move to reopen our economy, we realize that we must prioritize our safety, our community healing and collective liberation. As shared by Professor Ibram X. Kendi at our recent Economic Summit, racism has always been about our freedom – our freedom to and our freedom from.
We need to ensure that as we re-open, the economic opportunities will first serve the communities most impacted by COVID-19. There is no one way, no one process that can capture the transformation we seek. We can emerge from this dysfunctional paradigm with a state that is more resilient by honoring the agency of each person and multiple ways of being, healing and transforming -- but we see now that this won’t happen without a struggle. Greenlining’s policy teams have been hard at work thinking about the future while proposing ideas, sharing policies and fiercely advocating. We need to demand time for our healing while we demand change. Without a fundamental structural change, we are destined to become weaker, sicker and poorer.
This is the moment to push ourselves to build a future where race is not a barrier to opportunity. Equity is a promise that we can realize in this lifetime if we work together to advance community-led solutions resulting in transformation. To start making that dream a reality, our teams have put together some 40 policy recommendations for state leaders, aimed at not just recovery from the immediate crisis but rebuilding the California economy in a way that finally opens doorways to opportunity for all.
I invite you to read our full suite of policy proposals. You’ll see that some are quite detailed and granular. That’s a big part of Greenlining’s tradition, recognizing that turning good intentions into realities that make a genuine difference requires getting into the gritty details of policymaking and implementation. But some are also big and ambitious, looking toward how we reimagine and transform how we do things: We call for the repeal of Proposition 209 to once and for all end the fiction that “race neutral” solutions can fix problems rooted in racism. We urge the creation of a statewide Office of Equity tasked with identifying and ending systemic disparities in California and argue for a state full employment program to ensure a job for everyone who wants and needs one.
We must not let what happened in the aftermath of the 2008 crash happen again, and Greenlining believes California can be a model for the nation. The Great Recession hurt all communities, but it dealt a more severe and lasting setback to communities of color. If we simply return to normal, merely rebuilding the old California economy, we will have failed.
Millions of people of color in the United States are counting on us and our equity allies to be visionaries. The Greenlining Coalition and all of our many partners will do our best to move our state, local and community leaders to reimagine what’s possible and put equity at the center. We are unafraid to speak the truth, and we invite you to join us.
Debra Gore-Mann is The Greenlining Institute’s President and CEO. Connect with her on LinkedIn.